The Three Apprentices: An Experiment - Chapter Two

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

This is the second article in a series about a lifelong mentoring experiment I am conducting. Before continuing, you may wish to go back and read the first article (creatively titled “The Three Apprentices: An Experiment - Chapter One”), available HERE.

“Why do you think we say these specific words here?”

When I was doing my individual ritual proficiency examination with my lodge’s Deputy Grand Custodian, those were words that struck fear into my heart. From observing him examine other individuals and lodges, I had found that he had the absolute worst timing with that question; whenever someone was really in the zone with the ritual, he would interrupt and ask why we did something.

At first, it appears that he asks it randomly, but in reality he times it intentionally, but not maliciously. Real degrees often have unscripted interruptions, and knowing how to recover from them seamlessly is an important part of providing the best degree for the candidate.

In addition, the Deputy Grand Custodian who works with my lodge is incredibly intelligent and well learned, and while I always dreaded the interruption, I also knew that I was going to learn a part of the meaning to our ritual that most people wouldn’t even know existed. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to state that he has inspired many of the articles I have written, with that simple question “Why do we do it this way?”

Neil and I have been working very heavily on his Entered Apprentice proficiency. He received his degree back in the middle of February, and we have been meeting regularly at least once a week, and sometimes up to three times a week. Our meetings usually start with catching up on anything interesting he has found, going over different bits and pieces from the EA ritual, then we’ll spend the next hour working through the Questions and Answers lecture.

I cannot describe in words the incredible pride that comes with mentoring a brother through the degree work. Over the past few months, I’ve watched him go from struggling to read the words from paper to being able to recite the ritual back with very few mistakes, and seeing him begin to not only understand the words, but more importantly to analyze their meaning.

“Why do we say this here?”

It’s a question Neil and I have discussed quite a bit as well. As he has become more comfortable with reciting the ritual, we’ve started to analyze what the different portions of it were intended to teach him, and how he can apply them in his own life.

I have attempted to not impart my own Masonic biases on him, and to let him form his own opinion as to the meanings behind the words. I’m not entirely certain how successful I’ve been at that, but I can also say that Neil is highly intelligent, and I don’t believe that I could make him believe something against his will even if I tried. He has already discovered, entirely on his own, some meanings in the ritual that took me a few years to catch on to, and I see a time coming soon where he is teaching me more than I am teaching him!

With any experiment, it’s important to objectively judge results, and I’m afraid that in this I will fail miserably. In addition to being my apprentice, Neil has quickly become a trusted friend, and I cannot help but view his progress through that lens.

Although, isn’t that, by itself, an indication of the success of the experiment? The original stated intention was to minimize the risk of losing a new candidate by doing the exact opposite of what we normally do with our candidates, and I have no doubt that Neil will continue to be very active long past his Master Mason degree.

By the time this article releases, hopefully we will have finished conferring the Fellowcraft degree, and Neil and I will be deep into the esoteric meanings behind the middle chamber, which I’m highly looking forward to seeing his opinion on.


WB Adam Thayer is a grumpy-ish past master of Oliver #38 in Seward, NE and Lancaster #54 in Lincoln, NE. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, as well as being an occasional host on the Whence Came You Podcast. He may be reached directly at or summoned by placing a certain number of lapel pins in a special pattern around a petition for an appendant body.

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